03/31/2011 1:16PM

Owner Paragallo handed lifetime ban in New York


The New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Thursday issued a lifetime ban to former Thoroughbred owner and breeder Ernie Paragallo and barred him from all racetrack properties in the state, citing his conviction last year on 33 counts of animal-cruelty charges.

The ban was issued the same day that a New York appellate judge rejected Paragallo’s appeal of the 2010 conviction, a decision that will likely require Paragallo to return to an upstate New York jail cell.

David Seth Michaels, Paragallo’s attorney, did not immediately return a phone call Thursday afternoon.

The ban issued by the New York board will prevent Paragallo from obtaining any license from the board and will, at the very least, complicate any effort Paragallo may make to obtain a license in any other racing jurisdiction. Typically, racing commissions honor disciplinary rulings made in other states.

In addition, Paragallo will be prohibited from the grounds of any racetrack in the state, “even as a patron,” said Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the board.

Mahoney said that the board’s chairman, John Sabini, a former legislator, had cited the “nature and gravity” of Paragallo’s offenses in voting for the bans. Another board member, Charles Diamond, had called the offenses “disgusting” and had recommended after voting for the ban that the New York legislature change its law to make cruelty to animals a felony, according to Mahoney.

Paragallo was granted a hearing by the board in mid-December. The hearing officer spent the next four months preparing a report on the recommendations for the penalties that would be issued to Paragallo. In addition to the bans, the board could have issued 33 separate fines against Paragallo of $5,000 each.

Last August, after Paragallo had been convicted, the Jockey Club banned him from registering any Thoroughbred for racing or breeding purposes.

Paragallo’s troubles began in early 2009 when police raided his farm in Climax, N.Y., amid complaints that horses on the property were malnourished and suffering from skin parasites. Following the raid, local animal control officials took custody of all 177 horses on the farm.

Paragallo had acknowledged that some of the horses were underfed, but he contended that he was unaware of the problems. He was sentenced to two years in jail, fined $33,000, and taken into custody on May 18. He was released two months later, with 22 months still to be served, pending the appeal.